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DRI: The fourth recommendation relating to the strengthening of the fight against corruption cannot be considered fully implemented at this stage
18.01.2023
In the European Commission opinion on Georgia's application for the European Union membership, the lack of an independent Anti-Corruption Agency in Georgia was identified as a problem, which should have overcome the challenges and risks in the direction of corruption: monitoring of asset declarations of officials, development of stronger mechanisms for the protection of whistleblowers, improvement in the administrative capabilities necessary for monitoring the financing of parties and finances related to the election campaign, elimination of elite corruption.

The European Commission opinion makes it clear that the recommendation of the European Union implied the creation of an anti-corruption body to effectively fight corruption at all levels, including corruption involving high-ranking officials. To fulfill this goal, the European Commission focused on the transparency of the anti-corruption body's activities, its independence from political control and the need to equip it with an investigative mandate.

The Democracy Research Institute has repeatedly emphasized the ineffectiveness of investigation of corruption crimes. We have been repeatedly told that the authority granted to the State Security Service to investigate corruption crimes resulted in the duplication of the mandate and irrational spending of resources, as a result of which, the main challenge - elimination of elite corruption - remains a significant problem.

The Georgian Dream plan regarding the implementation of the fourth recommendation of the European Commission significantly missed the spirit and content of the recommendation of the European Commission. The draft law initiated by the ruling party did not even formally address the issue of asset declarations of officials, protection of whistleblowers, strengthening of administrative capacity for monitoring the financing of parties and election campaigns. It should be considered an important achievement of the non-governmental sector that the Parliament took into account part of the recommendations presented by them during the second reading. The draft law, which has already been adopted by the Parliament in the third reading, in addition to defining the general policy of the fight against corruption, provides for the transfer of the following functions to the Bureau: monitoring the asset declarations of officials, improving whistleblower protection measures, monitoring the financial activities of political associations of citizens (political parties), electoral entities and persons with election goals in accordance with the law.
 
However, the law does not provide for several important issues, including guarantees for political independence of the newly created agency, as the Bureau is institutionally and functionally dependent on the Government. Another important problem that the law leaves the lack of an investigative mandate for the Anti-Corruption Bureau unsolved, which limits the Bureau's authority and ability to combat corruption (including elite corruption in particular).

The Democracy Research Institute considers that the working group set up within the framework of the Legal Issues Committee relating to anti-corruption measures did not make adequate efforts (lack of meetings and political will) to implement the recommendation of the European Commission. Notwithstanding the fact that some of the comments of the non-governmental organizations (strengthening the protection of whistleblowers, checking the asset declarations of officials, monitoring the financing of political parties) have been taken into account after the first reading in the Parliament of Georgia, the European Commission's recommendation relating to the Anti-Corruption Agency, which should have combined all key anti-corruption functions and should have particularly carefully solved high-level corruption cases - cannot be considered fully completed at this stage.